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Prospective-Only Death Penalty Repeals

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Barry Massey reports for AP:

New Mexico's remaining death row inmates are asking the state's highest court to spare them from potential execution because lawmakers repealed capital punishment after they were sentenced to die by lethal injection.

Timothy Allen and Robert Fry contend their death sentences violate state and federal constitutional protections because New Mexico abolished capital punishment in 2009 for future murders but left it in place for them. Both men were convicted and sentenced to death for murders committed years before the repeal.

The state Supreme Court will hear arguments from lawyers on Oct. 1, but a decision by the five justices likely wouldn't be made until months later.
Months later would be good in comparison to Connecticut.  That state's high court heard oral argument April 23, 2013 and has been sitting on it for over a year.  CJLF filed an amicus brief in that case.  (It's only 10 pages because that is all Connecticut rules allow for amici.)

The issue isn't that hard.  If you simply decide according to established constitutional law, of course a legislature has the power to reduce the maximum punishment for future offenses without overturning existing sentences.  That is established beyond serious question.  If you simply want to reach a Politically Correct result and have to back in some plausible legal reasoning to support the predetermined result, that's a little more work, but it doesn't take a year.

Paradoxically, a win for these two murderers would be a loss for repeal advocates in other states.  Where the vote is close, prospective-only operation may be key to passage, and a court decision striking that down would make repeal more difficult.

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